West Coast Law Firms

27 04 2008

There are a lot of reasons to like the west coast. It has sun, beaches, and beautiful people. There are celebrities galore and everywhere you go has valet. But most importantly, it’s where I’m from and that makes it awesome.

Perhaps as a result of being in a more relaxed atmosphere, west coast law firms take a more relaxed approach to dress codes than their east coast counterparts. This is true even if they are two different offices of the same firm. The firm dress code is still business casual, but it leans more toward casual than business. As one LA law firm associate describes it, it’s about as dressed up as you would be if you went to the Olive Garden.

So what do you wear to the Olive Garden?

For the Ladies. You can do all the standard business casual stuff but throw in khakis, capri’s, dresses (solid and print) and any open-toed shoes that don’t look like flip-flops. Because the west coast is really faddy, you can also have fun with accessories: wide belts, chunky necklaces, big dangly earrings, the whole nine yards.

For the Gentlemen. In addition to all the standard business casual stuff, you can wear khakis and (at some firms) polo shirts. You don’t need a tie or a jacket unless you’re going to court. You should still avoid tennis shoes, shorts and T-shirts.

I’ve heard mixed things about visible tattoos and unconventional piercings but there are some firms where you can get away with it. Also, if your firm has casual Fridays, that means you can wear jeans (since you can wear khakis any other day).

Moving East to West

For those of you who are moving from the east coast to the west coast, here are some tips to help you avoid looking like a tourist. The following types of clothing will be a dead give away:

  • Seersucker
  • Boat shoes
  • Pearls
  • Pastels*
  • Plaid pastels
  • Outfits that are entirely black (New Yorkers, that means you)

Also, the whole Labor Day thing doesn’t apply.

*A Note on Pastels. On the west coast, pastels serve the primary function of allowing men to self-identify as being openly gay. When I lived in California, I was not aware that this was not a national rule and moving to the east coast subsequently wrecked havoc on my gaydar. If you are moving to the west coast and wish to self-identify as openly gay, wearing pastel colors is an easy way to do so. This is especially true of the color pink, or anything in the pink family. For those who do not wish to be identified as gay, you should know that (1) west coasters are largely unaware of the whole east-coast-pastel thing and (2) the pink rule does include the shirt you got from jcrew labeled “salmon.”

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4 responses

29 04 2008
Meg

as a life-long east-coaster, this post was extremely informative for me–who knew there were so many style differences! But, I will say, I personally appreciate a man willing to wear pink (or J Crew “salmon”)–I suppose I’m a preppy northeasterner to the core, but I think the west coast should be more accepting of pastels on men of all sexualities!

30 05 2009
Bi-coastal

As someone born and raised on the West Coast who went to school in the East, I’m going to go ahead and point out that the note on pastels is pretty much false. It’s certainly less common for hetero men to wear pastels in the West, but it’s far from a talismanic indicator that someone is gay.

20 05 2011
Pooja

Yeah, the pastel rule isn’t really a rule over here. East coasters should feel free to pack their salmon polo shirts without fear.

21 06 2013
Sunshine

Agreed to the last 2 posts – born and raised in Southern California.

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